From Bea Wray

I have enjoyed the game of tennis for decades and across many states. I have always had access to a tennis court but never owned one. Whereas sharing cars and bikes is a newer twist to the sharing economy, one might argue that tennis clubs were early movers who learned to share resources effectively. Turns out wind turbine manufacturers believe in the sharing economy as well, especially when it comes to expensive and large testing facilities. Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) Center combined with SCE&G Energy Innovation Center and Duke Energy eGRID lead the way by making it possible for wind turbine manufacturers from around the globe to pay to have their land-based as well as offshore wind turbines tested on huge and expensive equipment.

Right here in North Charleston, on the former Navy base, CURI is providing access to to plenty of engineers and PhD’s. The location offers master’s and doctorate degrees as well as certificates in computer engineering, computer science, cyber-security, and even digital production arts. These bright minds are essential to making the program work.

The SCE&G Energy Innovation Center (an 82,000 square foot building) at the same location houses the world’s largest wind turbine drivetrain testing rig. A grid-simulator (named Duke Energy eGRID) is also located at the facility. Thus, the turbine drivetrains can be tested inside before being sent to wind farms.

Clemson and Charleston are today shaping tomorrow’s energy future.

Who pays for all of this? The $100M facility was started with $45M of US federal funding, a $3.5M gift from SCE&G, a $5M contribution from Duke Energy, and an incredible fundraising effort by CURI whose Executive Director is Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. Now, in a model not so different to the way I pay for access to a tennis court, large corporations pay CURI for access to equipment and people they need but wouldn’t have been able to fund on their own. MHI Vestas (parent companies Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd and Vestas Wind Systems) and General Electric are two examples.

Vestas Wind Systems is a wind turbine manufacturer headquartered in Denmark with manufacturing also in Pueblo, Colorado. Danish farmers commonly used windmills (you know, the beautiful kind) to grind grain as early as the 1840’s. So, I should not be surprised that Vestas (according to Wikipedia) is the world’s largest wind turbine company.

Bea’s mother’s mustang is tiny compared to this single turbine blade.

General Electric is also a huge manufacturer of wind turbines with more than 35,000 wind turbines installed globally. Although their stated goal is to make them smaller, that is not the case as seen in the picture with my mother’s Mustang. The huge Haliade-X12 MW claims to be the world’s most powerful offshore wind turbine providing enough power for 16,000 European homes. Wow. The 12MW indicates that at peak performance the wind turbine has a 12 MW capacity. GE is also quite proud to report the 63% capacity factor for this wind turbine. Capacity factor is the average power generated divided by the rated peak power.

Dozens of Clemson engineers and graduate interns are providing these services and conducting research around this cutting edge technology. Everything they touch is new and different so they are not just meeting basic standards but are also establishing best practices. Clemson and Charleston are today shaping tomorrow’s energy future.